Alumni Profiles Series: Phillip Andreae
When you were a graduate student at Duke, what career paths or plans did you have in mind?
When I first started at Duke, I imagined myself working at a research university in the long run. But as I progressed through graduate school, I realized that I enjoyed teaching as much as or even more than doing research. I started seeking out opportunities to improve as a teacher and to learn more about careers with a teaching focus. Duke’s Certificate in College Teaching program and Preparing Future Faculty Fellowship were both very helpful in that respect!
How is being a faculty member at Meredith College different than being a graduate student? What has surprised you about the transition?
I have more freedom as a faculty member than I did as a graduate student, especially when it comes to teaching. When I taught at Duke, it was always one section of a large course in which the syllabus was fixed. Now I have more freedom to design and adapt my courses to my interests and the interests of my students. Of course, with more freedom comes more responsibility! But with a Ph.D. under my belt, I have more confidence than I did as a graduate student in my own ability to make important decisions about teaching, research, and everything else.
Tell us about your current position. Which part do you like the most? Which part do you find most challenging?
The best part of my current working environment is the sense of community at Meredith College, especially in the Mathematics and Computer Science department. Our small classes and the small size of the department mean that I get to know both my students and my colleagues really well.
The most challenging part has been the time commitment of preparing for three distinct courses each semester. Another challenging (but rewarding) aspect has been adapting to the students and campus culture at Meredith.
What future plans do you have for your professional career?
There are many ways that I would like to improve my teaching and develop my research, especially in ways that involve students. I would also like to develop a larger network of colleagues and collaborators. I have been very fortunate to be a 2016-17 fellow of the Mathematical Association of America’s Project NExT, a professional development program for early-career mathematics faculty. Project NExT has already introduced me to a number of helpful people and resources. Over the next few years, I plan to increase my involvement in the MAA (Mathematical Association of America) and other professional organizations. This way, I will continue to build relationships with colleagues at other institutions.
How do you think the PFF program has helped or benefited you?
It really helped me on the job market! I think my participation in PFF helped convince hiring committees, including at Meredith, that I was really interested in teaching and committed to succeeding in a career at an undergraduate-focused institution.
Do you have any advice to offer to current or future PFF fellows?
Take advantage of the opportunity to glean advice from your PFF mentor! Communicate your goals clearly and see how she or he can help you with those goals. For example, your mentor could be a great resource for helping you develop job materials such as a teaching statement.
On the site visits to the PFF partner institutions, the thing I found most useful was talking to faculty members, especially faculty members in the math department. If you can, seek out professors in your field and/or department and ask them about their students and colleagues and about what their life is like.
Ph.D. candidate, Mathematics
Lizzy Huang is a graduate student in the Department of Mathematics. Her research focuses on developing analytic techniques to study singularities of harmonic mappings in geometry.